Pure and Whole is vegan food for people who are vegan, but don't especially love food.
We dropped in for a late dinner on a weeknight, looking for something light and flavorful, and hoping to stay basically within my neighborhood. The restaurant was almost empty at 8:30pm (they close at 9).
The menu has a nice selection of choices, with appetizing names and descriptions. We ordered the pita appetizer with three spreads, (beet, mushroom, black bean) the Thai vegetable curry, and the most-recommended pistachio sauce pasta.
I don't like harping for a long time on bad food longer than I have to, so I'll jump right to the punch line: we did not enjoy our dinner at all.
The pita bread was so thin it was crackling after its roasting, basically no chewy bready texture whatsoever. The mushroom spread lacked seasoning, the black bean spread lacked seasoning, the beet spread lacked...you guessed it...seasoning. The natural sweetness of the beets kind of saved that one; the other two were just squishly texture in your mouth to spread over thin, dry pita. The purple carrots that were served with the spreads were horrible - completely without fresh flavor.
The vegetable curry tasted like it was made by someone who only knew two things about Thai curry: coconut milk and chilis. Those were the the only flavors it had, and not even those very strongly either. It was watery and bland and didn't deserve to be called "Thai". It was also served with cold, hard brown rice - clearly it was the end of the night, but how hard would it have been to steam up a single fresh serving of brown rice for us?
The pasta was also incredibly bland - it just tasted like pasta with a whisper of green vegetable flavor and no seasoning. After glumly swirling my pasta around in circles for a few minutes, I realized that the liquid of the pistachio sauce had mostly gathered on the bottom of the bowl, hidden under the pile of pasta. By dredging each bite through the liquid before eating, I was able to get a little bit of pistachio flavor, and moisture to swallow the pasta, and the flavor was actually alright. The sauce should have been creamier, to coat the pasta instead of sitting in a pool on the bottom of the plate, and it still needed more seasoning.
I get that Pure & Whole is upholding a healthy, vegan restaurant culture, but the food has to taste good too, and be prepared by a skilled chef with knowledge of how to coax great flavors out of mild ingredients. At no point in the meal did I feel I was eating food prepared with expertise and love for food.
All of the dishes were around 70+ CNY each and the total bill was 228. If I had left full and moderately satisfied, I would have called it some decent value for the Shanghai Centre. As it was, I found myself hungry and ordering dumplings on Eleme two hours later.
Pictures came out pretty nice though. I think a lot more attention was being paid in the the kitchen to presentation than taste of the food.
Vacation toxins. That’s the filth invading your system after a vacation spent eating and drinking to your heart’s content without a care for calories or fat. After my most recent vacation, my body was craving anything that wasn’t deep fried or where fatty cuts of meat were the main and supporting ingredient.
That’s why I made a beeline to Pure & Whole. The menu has a healthful variety of soups, salads, appetizers, pastas, wraps and curries. For those that are health conscious, each item on the menu displays the calorie count, fat grams, carbs, etc. My body-purifying order: Green Goddess soup, Jungle Salad and a chai, dubbed Chaitown.
The soup, made of a puree of asparagus, broccoli, green peppers and coriander, is as green as the Scottish Highlands. On first taste it seems to lack any significant seasoning. However, this is a soup that develops flavor spoon by spoon. The broth is dominated by coriander with a trace of asparagus that just wants to tag along.
The first thing noticeable about the salad is the aroma of the falafel. The combination of spices and herbs hits you immediately. A good salad is all about textures. You can see and taste them here: crunchy sunflower seeds, green beans and snap peas, crisp mixed lettuce, tender chunks of pumpkin and toothsome beets and radishes. The zesty dressing is mixed well throughout, making the flavors really pop.
Chaitown is light, using soy milk instead of cow’s milk, and has an essence of vanilla. It’s on par with any other chai from a respectable cafe. Just don’t tell an Indian grandmother that this is real chai. The bay leaf, though an inspired addition, just gets in the way of sipping.
All the vacation toxicity that I came back with to Shanghai now feels as if it’s on its way out after a healthy and wholesome meal at Pure & Whole. Total calories consumed: 420, with 22 grams of fat. I even got a jump in my step after lunch.
Price: 100 RMB / person
Summary: Healthy as advertised vegetarian-friendly experience that will make you feel good about yourself. A variety of choices that will intrigue even the most hardcore of carnivores. Prices are pretty reasonable, considering its location. The staff are always smiling probably because they know they’re serving you something that you can be proud of.
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